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November 9, 2012
Keeping up a routine aboard the USS Underwood

ABOARD THE USS UNDERWOOD (AP) -- The crew of the USS Underwood is waiting.

Somewhere amid the endless expanse of water that surrounds the U.S. Navy frigate, drug traffickers are speeding millions of dollars of contraband from Latin American shores to the U.S. The ship's mission is to stop at least some of that traffic, which from day to day means spending long hours searching the Western Hemisphere's coasts while preparing for action.

Endless duties and drills fill the day, as the crew trains for everything from a terrorist attack to a riot at port. At night, sailors sleep in tiny cubicles so cramped that many can't turn onto their sides.

In October, the 30-year-old vessel was patrolling the Caribbean waters off Panama, as part of a multinational effort to hit illicit trafficking routes on both coasts of the Central American isthmus.

Since it set sail with a crew of 260 in April 2012, it's visited ports in Panama, Peru, Chile, Colombia, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, the Netherland Antilles and Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. The Underwood is the oldest surface combatant ship in the U.S. Navy but no longer carries guided missiles. In fact, the recent deployment was the Underwood's last voyage, with 10 other U.S. Navy ships scheduled to be decommissioned early next year.

(24 images)




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A helicopter takes off for training purposes onboard the USS Underwood on Oct. 11, 2012 while patrolling in international waters near Panama. In October, the 30-year-old ship was patrolling the Caribbean waters off Panama, as part of a multi-national effort to hit illicit trafficking routes on both coasts of the Central American isthmus. The deployment was the Underwood's last voyage, with 10 other U.S. Navy ships scheduled to be decommissioned early next year. AP / Dario Lopez-Mills
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Boatswain's Mate 3 Billy Lewis, from Trenton, Tenn., watches a helicopter land on the flight deck from the window of a hatch door onboard the USS Underwood while patrolling in international waters near Panama Oct. 16, 2012. AP / Dario Lopez-Mills
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A helicopter takes off from the flight deck, seen through a window on a water-tight door onboard the USS Underwood in international waters near Panama Oct. 15, 2012. AP / Dario Lopez-Mills
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A sailor on flight deck duty, left, carries sniper rifles as sharpshooters leave the helicopter Oct. 15, 2012 after returning from a routine patrol onboard the USS Underwood in international waters near Panama. AP / Dario Lopez-Mills
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Ground crew prepare to assist in a helicopter lift off on the flight deck onboard the USS Underwood in international waters near Panama Oct. 15, 2012. AP / Dario Lopez-Mills
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A U.S. Navy helicopter and a Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB) participate in a drug interdiction training exercise seen from the USS Underwood in international waters near Panama Oct. 11, 2012. AP / Dario Lopez-Mills
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Sailors on flight deck duty watch a helicopter approach during re-supply operations onboard the USS Underwood in international waters near Panama Oct. 20, 2012. AP / Dario Lopez-Mills
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Lt. J6 Rachel Dequay, from Slidell, La., right, and Ensign 4 Xavier Joyner, from Atlanta, Ga., perform duties at the bridge of the USS Underwood in international waters near Panama Oct. 11, 2012. AP / Dario Lopez-Mills
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A sailor participates in a drill at the engine room of the USS Underwood in international waters near Panama Oct. 11, 2012. AP / Dario Lopez-Mills
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Sailors listen to orders during a meeting at the mess deck of the USS Underwood in international waters near Panama Oct. 10, 2012. AP / Dario Lopez-Mills
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The door to the galley of the USS Underwood stands ajar in international waters during lunch service near Panama Oct. 10, 2012. AP / Dario Lopez-Mills
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Rounds are lined up as sailors participate in small arms certifications onboard the USS Underwood in international waters near Panama Oct. 18, 2012. AP / Dario Lopez-Mills
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A sailor participates in small arms target practice on the USS Underwood in international waters near Panama Oct. 10, 2012. AP / Dario Lopez-Mills
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Sailors participate in M4 rifle small arms certification on the flight deck onboard the USS Underwood in international waters near Panama Oct. 12, 2012. AP / Dario Lopez-Mills
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U.S. Navy sailors wait for their turn at small arms target practice on the flight deck of the USS Underwood in international waters near Panama Oct. 10, 2012. AP / Dario Lopez-Mills
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A sailor grimaces during Oleoresin Capsicum (OT) certification, or pepper spray certification, onboard the USS Underwood in international waters near Panama Oct. 19, 2012. AP / Dario Lopez-Mills
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Chief Logistics Specialist LaKing Brooks is covered in whipped cream and syrup after participating in a "pie in the eye" fund raiser for the Second Class Petty Officers' Association during the 237th birthday of the U.S. Navy on the flight deck onboard the USS Underwood while patrolling in international waters near Panama Oct. 13, 2012. AP / Dario Lopez-Mills
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A U.S. Navy sailor poses for a yearbook photo at the mess deck of the USS Underwood in international waters near Panama Oct. 9, 2012. AP / Dario Lopez-Mills
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A sailor works out as others eat a meal of burgers and hot dogs on the flight deck on the 237th birthday of the U.S. Navy onboard the USS Underwood in international waters near Panama Oct. 13, 2012. AP / Dario Lopez-Mills
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A sailor works out topside onboard the USS Underwood in international waters near Panama Oct. 9, 2012. AP / Dario Lopez-Mills
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A sailor stands near the entrance to the flight deck onboard the USS Underwood in international waters near Panama Oct. 10, 2012. AP / Dario Lopez-Mills
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Chief Petty Officer Jose Negron, from Fitchburg, Mass., reads in his bunk before sleeping onboard the USS Underwood in international waters near Panama Oct. 23, 2012. AP / Dario Lopez-Mills
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A sunrise is viewed from onboard the USS Underwood in international waters near Panama Oct. 11, 2012. AP / Dario Lopez-Mills
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The USS Underwood patrols in international waters near Panama Oct. 16, 2012. AP / Dario Lopez-Mills

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